Gender/Feminism and Witchcraft


Witchcraft has been a key point of focus for most sociologist for the last few decades due to its continuous influence in the modern society. The issue of witchcraft emerged in the community initially as a healing practice but later associated with dark magic and use of spells, which caused harm to the society. As the negative perception of this practice increased in the society, communities started hunting individuals suspected of practising the act, and prosecute them. These accusation and prosecution were carried out excessively in many communities, and historian uses them to determine the societal nature of witchcraft. One trend observed is that most of those accused and prosecuted on witchcraft claims were women. The observation has led many feminist scholars to conclude that witch hunting was all about women hunting. This paper will give a detailed argument on how the early modern and ongoing accusation and trial of witchcraft supports the assertion that witch hunting is all about women hunting.

Feminism Connection to Early Modern Accusation and Trial of Witchcraft

The accusation and prosecution of witchcraft originated in the European nations in the period between the 15th and the 18th century. During this time, the Christianity religion was gaining ground in the region and thus those who were opposed to its teaching were seen as an outcast of the nation. In Europe alone, an estimated nine million people lost their lives during this time, as they were prosecuted for participating in the witchcraft activities. The total number of those who died across the world is bigger as these individual were also prosecuted in the American continent and other places in the world.


Despite that that the initial reason given for the prosecution was that witchcraft was opposed to Christianity, the statistics suggest the trial were unfairly based on gender. Out of nine million accused witches killed in the European nations, it emerges that 80-90% of them were women. The statistic has lead most feminist scholar to research the issue, and their conclusion has been that witch hunting was all about women but not the practice itself.

During the early modern period, women were not allowed to possess superior traits in the society. Purkiss observes that during the early modern period, women were considered more of housekeepers, and they were directly under the rule of their husband. Men dominated all the social, economic, and political sectors and thus, women had no significant role to play in the society. She observes that women who appeared to oppose this norm, like witchcraft with their hearing power, were considered rogue and thus they were subjected to societal discrimination and prosecution.

It was also a norm in the past that women were only relevant as far as they could reproduce and maintained a family. According to Purkiss, most of those who were accused of witchcraft, and those that were killed were unmarried women, Windows, and barren women it the society. They were discriminated for lack of capacity to have a family and lack of ability to bear children. Those were their primary duties, and if they could not meet these rules, then they were not supposed to do any other responsibility in the society.

One good example that serves as prove that witch accusations and trials were women hunting issue is the historian Salem witch trail. The trail took place in American continent during the colonial period starting from early 1692 and ending in May 1693. These are the major masses prosecutions that have ever occurred in the world, were more than two hundred individual were aligned trailed to answer charges of witchcraft. Out of the two hundred accused individuals, over three-quarters of them were females while as the rest were male. The male accused were mostly husband, son or cross relatives to the accused women and thus, the entire prosecution was all about women. 

Before the trial started, several girls within the Massachusetts colony had been indicted for engaging in illegal activities as well as indecent dressing. The society thus saw them been the outcast to the society for been different and thus they were automatically branded to be evil. By the end of the trail, nineteen people were sentenced to capital punishment, while as the rest died in the prison awaiting judgement or prosecution date.

The above statistic thus shows that the early modern accusation and trial of the witches was not just a normal societal practise but women hunting by men. Rowlands concluded that men were scared of women getting superiority over them, and thus they created a mind-set in the society that independent women were witchcraft. More than three-quarters of women prosecuted in Salem witch trial were independent and successful women in the society, who were not under the rule of men. The society was not ready for independent and success of women, and thus, it prosecuted them unfairly. 

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Feminism Connection to Ongoing Accusation and Trial of Witchcraft

In the 21st century, the accusation and trial of individual have shifted from the Western world to the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and South America. However, these does not mean it has ceased to exist in the countries of the west; it is still there, but accusation and trails have remarkably reduced, basically because laws are protecting those who are accused of like Witchcraft Act of 1735 of Britain. Buts most of all is because nowadays in the modern western countries, women are no longer seen as inferior and thus they cannot be accused of indecent wearing and taking abnormal roles. 

However, in the developing nations, men are still in the apical of the social, economic, and political affairs, and thus, women are easily victimised. In this regions, men are still the head of the society, and thus, they dictate all that need to be done. Federici observes that, in those companies, if a women emerge to be stronger than men, either political, economically or socially, then that women are branded as a witch. Most men in this region are afraid that women will take their role in the community, and thus they associate successful women with evil.

An excellent example of ongoing women prosecution and accusation of witchcraft can be traced to the recent events of the South African country. It is the most developed country in Africa, but the issue of witchcraft remain a big problem. Between the year 2005 and 2011, the government of South Africa introduced community education to teach people about HIV/AIDS. The country is among the leading nation in prevalence of the disease, and thus, the infection forms an important issue in their society. Initially, the society believed that women were using witchcraft to infect men with an illness that could make them inferior. Men could thus storm into windows and single women houses, who were believed to cause the infection and kill them, accusing them of witchcraft. All independent women in the country found themselves on the receiving end, being haunted by their fellow citizens.

The accusation of women witchcraft remain high in the country, but kills have now stopped as the government of South Africa has done its best to protect the most venerable in the society. However, this example serves as to prove that women are targeted for witchcraft, not because they take part in such practice, but just because they are different compared to the societal perspective of a woman roles. Federici argued that the South African society, just like many other companies in developing countries are not ready for women that have influence in the community, and thus they always prosecute to who disobey the norm. If that were not true, the South African community would have also killed single and divorced men that also channelled for causing HIV infection.

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Another ongoing accusation and trial of women for witchcraft can be traced in the Indian community. A particular report focused on Jalpaiguri in West Bengal on tea plantations were workers lives on minimum wage under poor conditions. The plantations were introduced by the British colony, in the 20th century and during those days, only men were allowed to work as women were seen less capable. Men thus dominated the industry even years after the British left the region. However, women have now gained economic power, and they have started seeking employment at these plantations.

The move by women has come with no expense as that is the primary cause of them being referred as witches today. The accusation has increased in the recent past forcing women to leave the plantation as they cannot handle the pressure. According to Chaudhuri, the indictment and women prosecution in the Indian farms have increased as they are gaining progress in men zone. Men are thus feeling insecure, and they are using witchcraft as their defend mechanism.


In conclusion, the above document has composed an argument on how the early modern and ongoing accusation and trial of witchcraft supports the assertion that witch hunting is all about women hunting. The early modern charge and prosecution of witchcraft have proven by use of statistics that women were most targeted for feminist reasons, as men were not ready to see successful independent women in the society. On the ongoing trial and accusation, it has been demonstrated by use of South African case an Indian case, that women are the target for their progress in the societal role, but not from actual participation in so-called witchcraft. The paper ultimate answer to the article is that witchcraft is connected to feminism, as accusation and trial on women are meant to inhibit them from progressing in society.

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